Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sexed Fascism

Three years ago in a post discussing fascism, I cited the remarks of one of the great active philosophers in the US, John McDermott, from his contribution to a conference and special journal issue on historical and contemporary fascism.
...fascism will not come to America as an anti-democratic movement. Quite the reverse! If it comes, it will be as an eruption from within our self-preening, self-deceiving confidence in our own ‘practice’ of democracy…. I do see… the contemporary crusading religious fundamentalist coalition as deeply foreboding, for they parade under the anthem of God and Country, thereby replicating the most dangerous of the historically numbing and oppressive movements. Hegel speaks of the cunning of history and here we face just that! Under the fake guise of pure American values and traditions, we are being coaxed into patterns of separation in our schools, opposition to gun laws, and a morally self-righteous smear on all alternative lifestyles. The insidious and seditious hook in this movement is its ability to convince many that their positions are not only authentically American but exclusively so. If ever there were the warning signs of an unhappy consciousness about to detonate itself, these are now before us. (From McDermott, “Threadbare Crape: Reflections on the American Strand”, 1997)
I think we can take this further. Fascism seduces not only ideologically and culturally, but also sexually. This point is merely obscured in the American context by the loud, self-righteous puritanism of the religious right. Fascism may be a matter of imposing the comprehensive doctrines of the powerful on an entire people, filling out its contours with themes drawn from populist resentment, folk beliefs, and fears over security. But it is also sexed. Fear and insecurity drive people into fascism's arms; intimations of sexuality drive them there longingly.

While this isn't exactly David Seaton's focus, he neatly combines these points:
That the number of white, working poor is growing exponentially and that this group, very large although unhyphenated, with all of its former left wing populist fervor long since extirpated, is bereft of any ideology except charismatic Christianity; with its critical faculties dulled to disappearance by a brutish corporate entertainment culture and drugged with sentimental, xenophobic patriotism and with nowhere to go except toward racism and paranoia.

These people have no defense against globalization and the new technologies except fear and resentment. And having an African-American in the White House has destroyed the last citadel of their precarious, tattered and battered self-esteem: the thought that, no matter how far down they were, there was someone they could look down on... black people.

Incoherent, celebrating violence, sentimental, paranoiac and resentful: it's all there cooking on the stove of high unemployment.

Along comes Sarah.

Many commentators, while admitting that Sarah Palin is attractive and charismatic, quickly discount her because little that she says will stand up to even the most cursory examination of its sense or nonsense. They fail to realize that this mixture of charisma and incoherence is precisely her most powerful political tool.


MT said...

And let's not forget Ahnold.

troutsky said...

"former left-wing populist fervor long since extirpated" sounds like a eulogy Mark Twain would recognize. Christian anti-intellectualism has seen it's day and the dialectic hasn't gone anywhere.